Larceny Barrel Proof (C921) Review

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Rising from the ashes of Prohibition and into the midst of the Great Depression in Bardstown, KY, Heaven Hill Distillery has grown to be the largest independent family-owned and operated producer of distilled spirits products in the US, and the second-largest holder of bourbon whiskey inventory in the world. The distillery was set up in 1935 after a small group approached the Shapira family seeking capital investment to set up a distillery using their technical expertise. Following personal financial difficulties among the other members of the founding group, their interests in the “Old Heavenhill Springs” distillery was bought out by the Shapira family making the distillery a fully family-owned enterprise. With renewed purpose, the family kept on one of the original investors, James L. Beam as Master Distiller, and hired the best bourbon producing talent they could find in their local Bardstown. Four years later in 1939, they released their first product, a 4-year-old Bottled in Bond bourbon under the Old Heaven Hill brand. The brand quickly became one of the top-selling bourbons in the State and cemented the distillery’s position as one of the top bourbon producers in Kentucky at the time. The name of the distillery originates from the family name of William Heavenhill who was an early pioneer farmer and owned the original property on which the distillery sat. When originally registering the company a clerical mistake resulted in the name becoming Heaven Hill as opposed to Heavenhill.

On November 7th 1996 a fire that started in one of the barrel ageing warehouses spread by strong winds, destroying almost the entire distillery and numerous ageing warehouses. Overall 90,000 barrels of whisky were lost and for the next 3 years, the company was dependent on production capacity in neighbouring distilleries. In 1999 Heaven Hill completed the purchase of the Old Bernheim Distillery from Diageo in Louisville and once the distillery was adapted, the production and distillation end moved to Louisville whilst ageing, bottling, and shipping still occur on the original Bardstown site.

Today the modern iteration of the company, Heaven Hill Brands, has become a diversified supplier of whiskeys, liqueurs, vodkas, rums, and other spirits. They own 62 rickhouses in Central KY and distribute hundreds of brands. Under the Heaven Hill Distillery portfolio, they produce award-winning products such as Henry McKenna, Elijah Craig, Evan William, Larceny, Old Fitzgerald, and Rittenhouse rye to name a few. The distillery also has the largest number of Bottled in Bond whiskies on the market and is the only heritage distiller that features every major category of American whiskey in their 5 distinct mashbills producing traditional bourbon, wheated bourbon, rye whiskey, corn whiskey, and wheat whiskey. Under 7th Master Distiller (and fellow countryman) Conor O’Driscoll the distillery is on course to fill almost 400,000 barrels this year and with continued investment production capacity is growing every year to meet rising demand.  


First launched in 2012, Larceny Bourbon is a wheated bourbon that is named in honour of John E. Fitzgerald who, according to legend, was a treasury agent who used his keys to the warehouses to pilfer Bourbon from the best barrels, thus committing larceny. In fact, the story has it that Fitzgerald’s palate was so good at finding the best barrels that S.C Herbst who owned the “Old Fitz” brand from the 1880s through Prohibition, and “Pappy” Van Winkle who purchased the brand during Prohibition and made it his signature label, both decided to immortalise Fitzgerald by creating and maintaining the namesake brand. Whether Fitzgerald was actually a treasury agent with a penchant for draining honey barrels in the night, or whether he was a historical distiller who used wheat as the flavouring grain in his bourbon instead of rye, the Old Fitzgerald brand still exists to this day and Larceny honours the unofficial side of Fitzgerald’s supposed history. Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye and uses winter wheat to replace the spicier, fruitier flavour notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.  What separates Larceny from its competitors is that it uses Heaven Hill’s wheated bourbon mashbill which contains just over a third more wheat thus making for a softer drinking experience.

Traditionally bottled at 92 proof, Larceny Small Batch is aimed at the premium market and produced from dumps of 200 or fewer barrels that have been selected from the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Heaven Hill’s open rick warehouses in Nelson County, KY. Larceny features bourbon aged from 6 to 12 years old and therefore sits towards the older end of the readily available wheated bourbon spectrum. In 2020, Heaven Hill released the first line extension under the Larceny Brand, Larceny Barrel Proof. Following the template set out by Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, it is a non-chill filtered and bottled straight from the barrel mingling of bourbon aged between 6 and 8 years old, and thus “offers whiskey fans an opportunity to taste Larceny as Heaven Hill’s Master Distiller does, straight out of the barrel and non-chill filtered,” according to Heaven Hill.

Today I’ll be looking at the final batch of Larceny Barrel Proof C921 release. This release was somewhat delayed this year, however, arrived just int time for the holidays. Let’s take a look!

Vital Stats:

Name: Larceny Barrel Proof
Age: NAS blend of 6-8 y.o. bourbon
Proof: 122.6 Proof (61.3% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight ‘wheated’ bourbon
Mashbill: 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley
Producer: Heaven Hill Distillery
Website: https://larcenybourbon.com/home/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with sweet red fruit dusted in white pepper, cacao, cinnamon, and earthy baking spices before deeper notes of charred oak and dark caramel emerge. The deeper you nose the more intense the fruit, caramel, and spice notes become whilst ethanol dances around the edges.

Palate: The palate opens thick and viscous with soft red fruits, dark caramels, dry baking spices and a kick of peppery charred oak tannins. Once the spice fades notes of bitter dark chocolate emerge alongside faintly herbaceous charred oak, and fire-roasted almonds.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering tannic spice at first, however, as this clears red fruit, sweet dark caramel, and earthy baking spices emerge before leading straight into a long aftertaste of near-burnt caramel, faintly herbaceous charred oak, dark chocolate, and a warm Kentucky Hug.

Overall

This release marks the final batch of Larceny Barrel Proof for 2021 and, like its cousin, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C921 has delivered a bourbon that outstrips the previous two 2021 releases by being more delicious, complex, and enjoyable. It has deep thick caramels, vibrant spices, soft fruits, and smoky charred oak notes that wash across the palate in near-perfect harmony, with the caramels and fruit work together to lead the charge before turning to chewy spice and charred oak to round it out. To top that off there’s also a touch of herbaceous oak which is a strong favourite of mine as I typically only get it in more mature bourbons and it’s a great indicator of older barrels in a blend. As with other years, the third batch allows us to look back over the year and do a direct comparison to choose a favourite. This year we saw Heaven Hill break the mould on some of their barrel proof releases with the Larceny A121 batch ringing in at a proof of only 114.8. Compare this to C921 rolling in at 122.6 and I’d expect some big differences. Tasting all 3, I found C921 to be livelier on the nose overall despite A121 having more herbaceous oak. On the palate, A121 is far more ethanol-heavy and spice-forward than both B521 and C921 and burns like hell every time I try to compare it to the others regardless of the order they’re drunk in. B521 holds up well against C921 on the palate but is more oak-heavy and thus lacks the fruit and caramel complexity I love in C921. As a result, this batch is the clear winner and if you’ve missed the previous two releases of 2021 and can only get your hands on C921 rest assured you’ve gotten the better batch and enjoy your spoils!

Try or Buy?

With an RRP of $50, I cannot recommend this highly enough. This batch blows it out of the water and is worth a buy!

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